Catalyzing Investment in Urban Sustainability
U.S.-Brazil Joint Initiative on
Urban Sustainability


Cities around the world are facing serious challenges, including growing populations, greater demands for services, strained infrastructure systems, legacies of obsolete economic activity, and tighter budgets and resources. At the same time, local leaders are making innovative investments in sustainable infrastructure projects that not only help save money and improve efficiency, but that also promote long-term economic growth, enhance environmental protection, and foster local job creation, especially for poor and underserved communities.

This section includes project examples from Rio de Janeiro and Philadelphia that demonstrate where cities can catalyze projects across sectors, scales, and geographies to generate local economic, environmental and health benefits for their citizens. The types of examples captured here reflect the integrated nature of sustainable projects, where measures to improve water efficiency can also save energy and enhance economic revitalization, and they cut across sectors, ranging from transportation, water, waste, and energy to information and communication technology. By highlighting the connections between projects and related policy and finance mechanisms, this section aims to make visible specific actions that cities around the world can take to meet their local infrastructure priorities.

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Each example includes cross-references to related policies, financial mechanisms and projects to highlight what specific investments can flow from a particular program. For example, Stormwater Utility Rate Structuring is a policy approach that can transform a traditional urban pollutant (stormwater runoff) into a marketable commodity. The Philadelphia Stormwater Credit Program is a specific finance mechanism designed to drive the market through laws requiring property owners to reduce their stormwater runoff or purchase offset "credits." Finally, the Big Green Block project is an example of an investment that generates stormwater "credits" in Philadelphia that could be available for purchase on the market.

Similarly, Special Districts and Areas of Interest are policy instruments that can create targeted services for specific, legally-defined geographic areas, often through zoning changes. In Brazil, these changes have enabled the development of finance mechanisms, such as CEPACs (Certificates of Potential Additional Construction), where public authorities auction off tradable certificates that expand developers' building rights. For the Porto Maravilha: Urban Waterfront Revitalization project, the sale of CEPACs has generated upfront financing for the municipal corporation managing the Area of Special Interest, allowing it to invest in the types of infrastructure and services that provide the backbone of any successful neighborhood.

Featured Projects

Crowd-Sourcing Green Entrepreneurs

Rio de Janeiro's entrepreneurial culture is helping the City build a greener economy.

Big Green Block

The goal of the Big Green Block project was to transform the sites of the Shissler Recreation Center and the Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts and the surrounding area into the biggest, greenest block in Philadelphia.

Gramacho Landfill Gas to Energy System

The Gramacho Landfill was receiving over 3 million metric tons of waste per year until 2012, producing at its peak 119 million Nm3 methane (normal cubic meter CH4) through decomposition within the landfill, which represents both a contribution to global climate change and a loss of a potential low-pollution energy source.